"Some of the Most Famous Views in Oregon" Ecola State Park by glabah

Ecola State Park Travel Guide: 26 reviews and 89 photos

Some of Oregon's most popular post cards feature a spectacular view looking south at the city of Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock, plus all its auxiliary rocks.

Ecola State Park is where this spectacular view can be obtained, at the price of a state park day use fee (or an annual state parks pass - see my Oregon State Park tip).

For those who have not visited the park in a very long time, things may have changed unfortunately. Due to the large number of people that visit the park every year, of which a certain number of are obnoxious and run all over the place off the trail when signs clearly say not to, there has been quite a lot of erosion to the hillsides in the park. The view point shown above is currently the best view offered of Haystack Rock from the south side of the park, but if you look closely you will see traces of the trail that used to go out onto the cliff past this observation deck. However, due to erosion, the entire cliff past the observation deck got washed into the ocean some years back.

You can find this entire process repeating itself throughout the entire park. People wander all over the grass slopes, which wears away the grass. As the grass is the only thing holding the slope together from the wind and rain, once it is worn away it simply collapses.

Thus, unfortunately, it is very likely that the entire shape of the park will rapidly change as time goes on.

Terrible Tilly and Other Stories

The area that is now Ecola State Park first reached national fame (or maybe infamy?) when the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse was built. In 1957 it was replaced by an automated buoy further off the coast, but from its completion in 1881 it was one of the roughest places to be assigned lighthouse duty. Stories that gained national attention came out of the "Life on the Rock" and its inherent difficulty.

Yet, before it was completed, it proved its value. During its construction the workers noticed a ship getting far too close to the rock, and made a bonfire as they could out of some of their construction materials. In the morning, they discovered a British ship had avoided Tillamook Rock thanks to their efforts, but had run aground on Tillamook Point instead. Everyone on board except the ship's dog was killed in the wreck. Such fatal accidents may have been far more common as ships searched for the entrance to the Columbia River, had the "Terrible Tilly" never been built.

It was sold to private parties when it was shut down. Even the private parties that own the lighthouse have difficulty accessing it. Huge waves regularly wash over the entire structure.

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The first written accounts of this area came from the 1804-1806 Corps of Discovery ("Lewis and Clark Expedition"). Intrigued with stories of a whale on the beach at what is now Cannon Beach, part of the corps decided to investigate.

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The area is known for its shipwrecks, and some of those occurred outside the range of recorded history. Cannon Beach, the town just south of Ecola State Park, is named after ships cannon that have been discovered over the years on the beach. The cannon originated from the US Navy Shark in 1846.

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There is a local tribal story of a great wooden "thing" (certainly not a canoe as it was too big) being driven ashore in a storm, somewhere in this area. It was then set on fire by the men that came off of it. As best as has been determined from recorded history, this is the last resting place of one of the Spanish ships that used to make the Philippines to Mexico voyage, on a regular trade route. At least one of those ships vanished completely. It is not known, however, the exact location or time of this story.

A Typical Visit to Ecola:

The park has camping facilities (though they are slightly over a 1 mile walk from the nearest parking area) and so there are those that stay here for more than a day.

Others, who are trying to see everything on a west coast mad dash, only stop for a few minutes to take a brief view over the side of the cliff.

Ecola State Park is like the Oregon coast itself: the more you are willing to put into it, the more enjoyment you will have out of it. If you try to see it in a quick blast through, you won't get too much out of it. The scenic vistas here can be seen from the parking lot, but even more scenic views may be obtained by just a short hike (though a long one might be good too). The view seen here may only be obtained from the 1/8 mile trail to the Indian Beach Viewpoint.

The road entrance to the park (see my Various Ecola Transportation Tip) is south of the intersection of highways 101 and 26. You have to follow a very narrow road on which large vehicles of all types are specifically recommended to not travel.

If you have an annual state parks pass, then there is no need to stop at the pay station at the entrance to the park. Otherwise, your first stop is going to be at the pay station to get a day pass or an annual pass (it may save you money in the long run to have this pass if you are visiting many state parks). There is a trail from the city of Cannon Beach into the park, and you do not have to pay the day use fee if you are not bringing a vehicle into the park.

The typical visitor makes their first stop at the Ecola Point area, which features great views of the surrounding rock formations, plus picnic tables and restrooms with flush toilets (the rest of the restrooms in the park are pit toilets). In addition to the trail from Cannon Beach, it is possible to reach Crescent Beach from here by trail.

The next stop is usually to drive north to Indian Beach. This is the trailhead for additional trails going north, but is as far north as you can go in the park by driving. The very southern side of Seaside also has a trailhead that goes into the park from the north side, however.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Great Views, including some of the most Famous in Oregon. Trails into Cannon Beach connect the park to occasional public transit, allowing those who don't drive to enjoy the view from here as well.
  • Cons:Is always very busy on weekends with clear weather, especially in summer. Heavy use of park grounds has caused erosion of sensitive areas, including those that once offered spectacular views of the coast.
  • In a nutshell:This place is one of the most popular state parks on the Oregon coast for a reason. Best visited on a weekday or other slower period.
  • Last visit to Ecola State Park: Mar 2012
  • Intro Updated Mar 21, 2012
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Reviews (14)

Comments (3)

  • toonsarah's Profile Photo
    Aug 3, 2013 at 11:58 AM

    Fantastic photos of this beautiful coastline, and excellent, thorough tips :-) What a shame the park is being spoilt by erosion, and the thoughtlessness of some visitors.

    I can't remember that we visited this park on our trip to Oregon many years ago, although I also find it hard to believe that we would not have done so, as it looks just the sort of place we would like.

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    Jun 19, 2013 at 4:57 PM

    A great page Glenn! I know I would like it here with all the wildlife that you saw, and the trails and the views, it really has everything!

  • Florida999's Profile Photo
    Mar 20, 2012 at 5:30 AM

    What a cool looking place! I definitely would want to camp there, nice photos:)

glabah

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